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Take these steps to structure a successful mid-major program

Understanding how to communicate effectively is essential to building meaningful relationships with mid-major donors. In my previous post, I covered the three foundational elements that mid-level and major gift officers need to master for success: predictability, person-to-person communication and trust.

But communication is only one side of the coin. The other is building the operational infrastructure to support these efforts. So, let’s talk about how to structure a successful mid-major program.

We’ll start with a focus on habits, behaviors and performance:

  • Consistent habits drive results and lead you to reaching your fundraising goals
  • Routine behaviors establish consistency of fundraising tasks and actions of connection with your donors
  • Choosing the right performance measures is key to inspiring engaged donors to act

Keep these three elements in mind as we dig into some frequently asked questions that our Donor Engagement team often fields:

What’s the best way to acknowledge a mid-major donor after their first gift?

You should immediately send the paperwork to acknowledge the gift, typically within the first two weeks (depending on the channel).

In addition, we recommend a quick phone call just to say, “Thank you.” You’ll often hear a bit of shock in the donor’s voice when you simply express gratitude and share the impact their gift will make.

Mid-major donors often “test” nonprofit organizations—whether consciously or subconsciously—just to see how you respond. If you make them feel like a part of the solution to the need, you’ll pass the first test.

How often should I contact mid-major donors?

This might be the question we get asked the most.

As I mentioned in the first blog, predictability is a big part of communication with mid-major donors, so keeping in touch consistently is key. I suggest a phone call—or text or email, whichever they prefer—every three months or so just to check in.

Behind the scenes, you need to be monitoring everyone on your list. If they make a gift between your regular check-ins, move quickly to acknowledge it. A handwritten note or card does well here.

How should I keep track of who to call and when?

You need a dashboard or set of reports that you routinely review, along with a weekly “hot list” of charitable gifts whose donors need a thank-you call. You should re-evaluate your portfolio every quarter to determine who should stay and who should not.

Stay organized and stay on top of this. Record your moves and touchpoints so you don’t lose track.

Where can I find the time to do all this?

When you work at a nonprofit, you often wear many hats—believe me, I’ve been there. There are so many initiatives that require “all hands on deck.”

But remember: Habits lead you to the behaviors that propel your performance.

The key to finding time is being intentional about it. Set aside three hours each week to make calls and contact your donors. Block off your calendar. Make it a priority.

Once you begin to do this, these intentional behaviors will transform into regular habits. Then, you’ll be on your way.

How do I know if it’s working?

Large gifts to the organization are the most obvious metric to track, but the donations often lag behind the behaviors. Here are a few other items you should track:

  • New prospects identified, qualified and updated in portfolio
  • Meaningful communications with existing donors
  • Successful touchpoints (returned phone calls or emails, video chats, meetings, etc.)
  • Proposals submitted
  • New donors acquired
  • Existing donors retained
  • Lapsed donors reactivated
  • Donors by size of gift, increase in gift, etc.

Remember, this is a long game of habits, behaviors and performance. Think of it like trying to lose weight:

The habit is scheduling time on your calendar to go to your workout. The behavior is leaving the house, driving to the gym, changing clothes and completing your workout. The performance is number of steps or laps around the track; number of workouts each week; ounces of daily water intake for hydration; change in BMI, etc.

When you start exercising and eating well, the scale doesn’t budge right away. But you know the work you’re putting in will pay off down the road.

By understanding which habits lead to the behaviors that propel your fundraising performance, you will see how to best use your time as you build a successful mid-major program.

Fiona Cunningham

Born, raised and educated in the UK, Fiona commenced a successful 13-year career in international business with Fortune 100 Corporations, resulting in serving as president of a wholly-owned subsidiary of a major global corporation. With a life-altering event, she adjusted her career aspirations toward the nonprofit sector.

After 18 years leading distinguished partner engagement with local and national nonprofits, including Arthritis Foundation and American Cancer Society, she joined RKD Group. Her expertise spans leadership development, strategic planning, corporate partnerships, major gifts, cause campaigns, distinguished events and volunteer leadership recruitment.

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